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No new inquiry on Newsquest's purchase of Herald group

A request to re-open an investigation into the takeover of the Herald newspaper titles by Newsquest in 2003 has been rejected by the Competition Commission.

The watchdog turned down a bid by SNP MP Pete Wishart to re-examine the takeover involving the purchase of the group – which includes The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times – by Newsquest, from SMG.

The MP and the National Union of Journalists wanted to have the purchase re-examined due to pledges made by Newsquest about the quality of the titles, and in the wake of recently-announced budget and job cuts.

But he was told that there was little the Commission could do about the concerns raised.

It was a case under the old Fair Trading Act and unlike the current Enterprise Act, there is no provision allowing the Commission to re-open an inquiry once it has been completed.

Also, Newsquest did not give any formal assurances or pledges of the type that are sometimes required to let a merger/acquisition go through.

And even if it could be proved that the inquiry in 2003 was deliberately misled, it would be too late to take any action. The Fair Trading Act does not allow for prosecutions more than three years after the inquiry.